At the beginning of the 20th century, when 12-string guitars first appeared in the United States, the instruments were considered novelty items, curiosities, freaks of guitar making that were beneath the dignity of serious companies like Martin and Gibson. But when Blind Willie McTell picked up a Stella 12-string in 1927, and then basically never put it down, the instrument was suddenly legitimized.

A folk singer named Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, had actually made the Stella 12-string his own earlier, in 1912, but Lead Belly had so many scrapes with the law and spent so much time in prison that he wouldn’t get a chance to popularize the ringing tones of the 12-string until the 1930s and ’40s. Even then, his biggest hit, “Good Night Irene,” came after his death in 1949.

Pete Seeger and the Weavers kept the 12-string sound alive until the 1960s, when groups like the Rooftop Singers (“Walk Right In”) made it the go-to instrument on the commercial folk scene. Gibson was ready with its B-45 in 1961 and its B-25 in 1962, while Martin got on board a bit later with its D12-20 in 1964 and D12-35 in 1965.

The loudest noise in 12-strings, though, was made by Rickenbacker, thanks to a custom, one-of-a-kind 12-string version of its 325 hollowbody electric guitar made in 1964 for John Lennon of the Beatles. George Harrison also became a Rickenbacker acolyte, playing his Rickenbacker 360 12-string on songs like "A Hard Day’s Night."

One musician who liked that sound a lot was Roger McGuinn of the Byrds. Reportedly, he bought a 360-12 after seeing the movie named after of the famous Beatles song. He went on to play a 12-string on one of the Byrds’ biggest hits, “Turn Turn Turn.”

By the late 1970s, newer companies like Taylor made acoustic 12-strings part of their lines. Once again, a key musician would cement the instrument's sound in our collective soundtrack. In this case it was Neil Young who, while vacationing in Florida, purchased a Taylor 12-string, an 855, at a local music shop. Young liked his 855 so much he ordered a second, and Taylor subsequently gained widespread recognition when Young’s 855 figured prominently in his concert film, "Rust Never Sleeps."


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Recent News: 12 String Guitars

Source: Google News

S.A. garage a treasure trove of Hispanic music history
San Antonio Express-News (subscription), July 31st

Flaco Jimenez once described the sound of Lydia Mendoza's heartbreaking voice and 12-string guitar as “like the stars falling from the sky.” Poetic and fitting for an artist considered to be the greatest Mexican-American female singer of the 20th century...Read more

Beauty amid the ruins
Sierra Vista Herald, July 30th

In addition to the mellotron, Longley plays a 12-string guitar, which gives the music a touch of that south-of-the-border sound. The video took one day to shoot, a week to edit and four months to organize, Lohmeyer said. It is an intimate look at the...Read more

BluesAgent band booked for Taste of Plattsmouth
Fremont Tribune, July 28th

Boarman is a skilled rhythm guitarist on six- and 12-string guitar. “All of the guys have been playing in the Omaha area for years and they all bring varied playing experience and music tastes into BluesAgent, giving it a strength and ability to...Read more

How Joe Satriani Found Inspiration from His Fictional Alter-Ego on New Album ...
Guitar World Magazine, July 28th

For many artists who reach the "double digit albums" stage of their career, inspiration often can be hard to come by. However, for Joe Satriani—who released his 15th studio album, Shockwave Supernova, July 24—each album is seen as a chance to...Read more

Summer NAMM 2015: Taylor Guitars Limited Edition Guitars — Video
Guitar World Magazine, July 27th

Next up is the 300 series limited edition 12-string guitar, with a powerful low end and shimmery top tone. Rounding out our demo is a super special guitar with a Florentine cutaway and Sitka spruce top and Tasmian Blackheart Sassafras back and sides...Read more

Virtuoso guitarist Paul Brett releases '12 String Instrumental Power' LP
Music Talkers, July 21st

The artist's label, Viral Discs and Downloads, describes the remaining songs as “a selection of other original instrumentals that take the listener on a journey into the immense possibilities that 12-string guitar can produce when taken beyond the...Read more

GIVEAWAY: Enter to win a Kona Signature Series 12 String Acoustic Guitar!
Rock Cellar Magazine, June 5th

kona 12-string guitar giveaway prize june 2015 We're back with another giveaway! Congratulations to Buddy of Hinckley, Ohio for winning our last giveaway. Up for grabs this month is a Kona Signature Series 12-String Acoustic Guitar with Solid Spruce Top!...Read more

12-String Setup Secrets
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A handful of musicians have built their careers around the 12-string guitar—Lead Belly, Leo Kottke, and Roger McGuinn come to mind—but for most guitarists, an electric or acoustic 12-string is a specialty instrument to be hauled out when a song needs...Read more